MAYVILLE, N.Y. — Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed Sunday, two days after the author of “The Satanic Verses” suffered serious injuries in a stabbing at a lecture in upstate New York.
Following news that Rushdie was able talk and laugh after being taken off a ventilator on Saturday, the announcement came as a follow-up to this. Wylie continued to caution that although Rushdie’s “condition is headed in the right direction,” his recovery would be a long process. Wylie previously stated that Rushdie had suffered damage to his liver, severed nerves from an arm, and one eye. He was also likely to lose his injured eye.
Hadi Matar (24) pleaded not guilty on Saturday to assault and attempted murder charges in connection with the attack on Chautauqua Institution. This non-profit education and retreat centre is a charitable organization.
Judge ordered him to be held without bail. After District Attorney Jason Schmidt informed her that Matar had taken steps to deliberately put himself in danger to hurt Rushdie. He obtained an advance pass for the speaker’s event and arrived a day earlier with a fake ID.
“This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said.
Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities had taken too long to get Matar in front of a judge while leaving him “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks.”
“He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Barone added.
The attack was met with shock and outrage from much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for “The Satanic Verses.”
Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s courage and longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”
President Joe Biden said Saturday in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack.
“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced — stands for essential, universal ideals,” the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. Ability to communicate ideas freely without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”
Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the U.S., is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” in which he sharply criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
Khomeini was also killed that year. However, the fatwa is still in force. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer.
Investigators were working to determine whether the suspect, born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, acted alone.
Schmidt, District Attorney, mentioned the fatwa in his argument against bail.
“Even if this court were to set a million dollars bail, we stand a risk that bail could be met,” Schmidt said.
“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that was adopted and it’s sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.
Barone, the public defense attorney, stated that Matar had been openly communicating with him, and that he was going to spend the next few weeks learning more about Matar, such as whether or not he suffers from addiction or psychological issues.
Matar comes from Fairview, New Jersey. Rosaria Calabrese, manager of the State of Fitness Boxing Club, a small, tightly knit gym in nearby North Bergen, said Matar joined April 11 and participated in about 27 group sessions for beginners looking to improve their fitness before emailing her several days ago to say he wanted to cancel his membership because “he wouldn’t be coming back for a while.”
Gym owner Desmond Boyle said he saw “nothing violent” about Matar, describing him as polite and quiet, yet someone who always looked “tremendously sad.” He said Matar resisted attempts by him and others to welcome and engage him.
“He had this look every time he came in. It looked like it was the worst day of his life,” Boyle said.
Matar was the child of parents from Yaroun in south Lebanon. Ali Tehfe said that Matar was brought up in the United States by his father.
You can see flags from the Iran-backed Shia terrorist group Hezbollah all over the village. Also, portraits of Hassan Nasrallah (Khomeini), Khamenei, Khomeini as well as the deceased Iranian Gen. Qassem Solimani are also visible.
Journalists who visited Yaroun Saturday afternoon were asked to move. Hezbollah representatives did not reply to our requests for comment.
Iran’s theocratic government and its state-run media assigned no motive for the attack. Interviews with Iranians in Tehran by the Associated Press revealed that some Iranians praised the attack against an author, believing it to be a slap on the Islamic faith. Others were concerned about the possibility of further isolation.
A reporter from AP witnessed Rushdie being stabbed or punched about 10 to 15 times on Friday.
Henry Reese (73), event moderator, sustained a facial injury. He was released from hospital after being treated. Rushdie and he had intended to talk about the United States’ role as refuge for exile writers and artists.
A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterward some longtime visitors to the Chautauqua Institution questioned why there wasn’t tighter security given the threats against Rushdie and a bounty of more than $3 million on his head.
The center announced that it is increasing security by requiring photo IDs for gate passes. This was previously possible anonymously. Rushdie’s attackers were attacked in the Amphitheater. Patrons will not be allowed to carry bags.
Chautauquans were shocked to see the increased presence of police officers and armed personnel on bucolic land. They have always loved the relaxed atmosphere of the 150-year-old vacation community.
News about the stabbing has led to renewed interest in “The Satanic Verses,” which topped best seller lists after the fatwa was issued in 1989. On Saturday, the novel was No. Amazon.com: 13
After Rushdie’s publication, he was threatened with death and also received a bounty. He fled to hide under the protection of the British government. This program included an armed guard who worked around-the clock. Rushdie made a cautious return to public life after nine years in seclusion.
In 2012 he published a memoir about the fatwa titled “Joseph Anton,” the pseudonym he used while in hiding.
He said during a New York talk that year that terrorism was really the art of fear: “The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid.”
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